Dave Folkens

Social Media Overload: When is Enough Too Much?

The onslaught of new social media sites has fundamentally changed the role of any marketing or communications professional. Every day millions of users are spending significant periods of time on social networks. In 2010, social media use represented 22 percent of the time spent online by users. The impact of social media on business cannot be ignored but how much is too much?

For many organizations, hiring a social media specialist isn’t a viable option due to budget constraints or the responsibility for managing the social media programs falls on the shoulders of the communications department. It’s a role often already filled with deadlines and juggling of priorities between internal and external efforts, media relations, content creation, meetings and more.

The bottom line: Don’t chase every shiny object in the marketplace. A quick search on “social networking websites” and a visit to Wikipedia gave me 201 options. Now sure, some of these are very small and specific to a niche but it’s interesting to look back at all the ideas that someone thought were brilliant and revolutionary for their time.

The sad fact is that for every useful site like Caring Bridge or big hit like Facebook, there’s a Bolt or a Google Buzz that came and went or never took off at all. Set goals on what your company needs to achieve and create a set of key questions that you use in reviewing any new tool you want to explore. Think about using those filter questions as a screen to evaluate opportunities in front of you.

The questions will vary but take some time now (after a few more paragraphs at least) to think about and talk with the key stakeholders in your organization about the right questions. Filters should be specific enough to give you real, measurable information that can inform you about the potential success of your investment (time or money) in a social platform.

  • Does this generate enough direct revenue to offset the staff time required?
  • Will this expand our opportunities into a new market of interest to us?
  • Is this tool effective enough to get customers to take a specific action whether its click to buy or visit a store?
  • What level of speculative time investment are we willing to make?
  • Could this lead to collaboration or co-promotion opportunities that will benefit the company?
  • Does this effort align logically with our existing initiatives?

These are of course just samples and there isn’t a single way to do it. Perhaps 20 percent of a full-time employee’s time  to execute a program with unknown success is worth it in your model or the opportunity to create an entry to a new market.

Even once you create filters, there are times when you should try new efforts that don’t fit or take a chance. But by slowing down to evaluate the opportunities you at least make sure you’re not adding yet another task to your role without thoughtful purpose and a good chance at success.

How much of your time do you estimate goes into social media on a daily basis? And what has worked for you in balancing the requirements of social with other essential roles?

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  1. Avatar TPC Online Marketing says

    Good post and solid suggestions. What we often find is that businesses in one of two streams of thought: 1> It’s all about Facebook 2> We want to be everywhere; without really considering where their audience is or what they want to achieve.

    • Strategy first is always a good thing. It’s normal though to look at the clear leader as the priority or have the feeling that you should do it all so you don’t miss anything but there are some cases where a particular company might not really need to be everywhere. Some are really better served by a focused campaign on a site that’s relevant for their audience- whether that is Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or a more niche site.

  2. Avatar Black Seo Guy says

    I tell people that if you have an hour an day to go over and implement so social marketing things then do it..You don’t have to drown yourself in it.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

    • Yes, it’s really about goals. For some organizations a half-hour of targeted work will be great. For others it really should be more. That’s at least where I find setting some type of screen helpful in clarifying what you really want to accomplish.

  3. Avatar Mikko Rummukainen says

    This is a great post, and certainly gives us something to consider during 2011!

    I would definitely like to see less chatter, noise and hype about 5 different overlapping social media solutions/tools/games/whatever, and more of concise, clear and why not even a bit standardised approaches into managing social media across the board.

    This is mainly because sometimes I feel like I am using too much time trying to grasp the OS of a tool that I actually already have – just under a different name. I feel that if companies just getting familiar with social media had a set of easily approachable tools gathered for each social media need, a lot more learning and a lot less app chasing would get done.

    • You raise some really smart points Mikko,
      I think it becomes a challenge as each different site/app has their own goals in mind too so there’s an inherent level of competition and they all want to be *the* hot one. However, for companies seeking to have a strong presence in the space, it can be very time consuming and a waste of time.

      Also, the public sentiment about these tools can change quickly and what seems like a must use tool today could go the way of MySpace down the road. I think it really is essential to decide what you want to achieve first and then invest the time versus the other way around.

  4. Avatar John Alves says

    I think social media can be a traffic source. However, I don’t feel that it is needed because a lot of people are spamming to get the traffic. It takes a lot of time to build up a reputation on sites like Facebook and Twitter. I think delivering value is the most important aspect of building a business, and it’s hard to do that on social networking websites especially with how strict they are becoming. If you tweet too many links, it doesn’t matter how good your information is on your blog or website, you’re going to get banned.

  5. It seems that there is a rush into social media by commercial firms that fail to step back and consider the depth of connection they have with their target audience. If a emotional bond exists, social media can be very productive, but

  6. It seems as if there is a rush into social media by commercial entities that fail to take into consideration the depth of their connection to the target audience. Social media can be very productive for firms with an emotional bond with their customers. However, it can morph into a huge time suck for a firm with that does not have an engaged audience. E-mail marketing is typically more productive than a Faceook page for folks selling a mundane product or service.

  7. Well I suppose you can take the glass half full approach for social media as this article suggests, yet ask someone who has 50 or 100K fans and they will tell you the investment in time and effort is absolutely worthwhile. Even 5K friends or fans generates activity that translates into NEW revenue.

    • I have to go the other direction in response to your comment. Having 50k or 100k fans or followers does not necessarily imply that the company is generating sales off of the majority of those people. There are plenty of companies that use social media that are not using it effectively but they have thousands of followers because they are simply a popular company. You do note that even 5k friends or fans generate revenue, but honestly, having 10 friends or fans can also generate revenue. It’s all in the marketing plan and how effective a person or a company is. I have seen companies with 100 followers generate a higher percentage of sales through social media than a company with 50,000 fans. New revenue is good, but say a company is paying a social media strategist or employee 30k a year (low ball amount) to manage the program. That is a huge expense to take on no matter what size the company is.

  8. So true- I struggle with this all the time. There is SO MUCH out there – where do you start… and more importantly: where do you END?

    Great thoughts!

  9. I’ve only been using Social Media for a few months now to promote my business and am overwhelmed by the amount of information out there. Thanks for your questions; I’ll put them to good use.

  10. It’s crazy how many social networking sites are out there. There is no reason to use them all, but putting effort into a few highly targeted social networking sites is great for business. Setting goals for each site is crucial. There is no point in being in the social space if you aren’t going to work hard and invest the time to get something out of it.

    • Absolutely. It’s not a cure all and not “free” in terms of the time invested to get good results but it can certainly be worthwhile.

  11. Many companies have flooded the Social Media sites thinking that they found a gold mine, but very few know how to use them properly. It was great at the beginning when it was fairly new, but now all the ads and the promotions on Social Media sites became simply a noise for the target market. I think it’s time for companies that want to make use of this channel to hire a professional

  12. Sadly there are a lot of companies out there who are making lots of money by using buzz words and bias information to convince their clients that they should pay more for their PR efforts.

    On the other side of the coin there are companies who are begging their PR company to get them on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Foursquare etc without even looking at these platforms.

    It’s not so much that Social Media is overloaded, it’s more the people who want a fast buck that are the problem. Sit down and ask…”Are my customers/potential customers ON Facebook? Are they ON Twitter?” If the answer is yes, are you prepared to talk with these people. Having a forum for customers to voice their concerns (no matter who you are you are always going to get at least ONE complaint) are you willing to communicate with them in public? If you are not, then there is no social aspect to your social media. That I find is the main frustration.